Rochelle Humes speaks about her new book, her advice for mamas and her plans for the future
Words by Flora Thomas
Rochelle Humes is fast becoming a household name. From her early days as a member of S Club Juniors – which a afforded her six top-ten hits – to stardom with The Saturdays (earning her another 13), she has gone on to presenting roles with This Morning, Children in Need and The Xtra Factor. Rochelle, who is married to Marvin Humes, has a five-year-old daughter and a second daughter who turns two this month. Following a conversation with her eldest child, she’s on a mission to improve diversity in children’s literature. The book is about two best friends, Mai and Rosa. Mai, who has curly hair, wishes her locks were straight like Rosa’s, but when a magical coconut grants her wish, she quickly realises her tresses were perfect the way they were. We spoke to Rochelle to ask her all about her new book, her advice for mamas and her plans for the future.
“With your first child, there’s mad pressure to get everything right”
Congratulations on your first children’s book, it’s gorgeous.
Thank you! I’m really, really proud of it.
Tell me about the moment you decided to write a children’s book.
As soon as I had children, really. As a parent you’re surrounded by books from the beginning; they become such an ingrained part of your life. Bedtime is all about books in my household, it’s a special time for me and my little ones, it’s our time. My daughter started to ask me to make up stories for her in the evenings. I’d be getting back from a long day at work and I found myself struggling not to say something I’d already said!
The publishing world is super behind in terms of diversity and representation when it comes to characters. It’s important for children to recognise themselves in the books they read, considering it’s often their first real love. I hadn’t really acknowledged the lack of diversity until children’s books became part of my world. I did some research and found a study which says only one percent of children’s books have a BAME main character. Discovering that fed my determination to change things.
My little girl was coming home from school saying that she wasn’t happy with her hair, or that her skin was a different colour to her best friend. It was predominantly about her hair, the fact that it’s curly and frizzy. All she wanted was long flowing locks.
So that experience, paired with our joint love of books, lead to the original concept. I was aware that there are all sorts of books you can write. I chose a children’s picture book aimed at the five-to-seven age range for two reasons: firstly, that’s the age at which they first start learning to read. Secondly, certainly for my little ones, that’s when the love of books starts to develop.
What’s been your favourite part of the process?
Sharing it all with my girl, for sure. She really helped me out! I especially loved her being involved with choosing an illustrator. I got pitched lots of different designers. Getting the hair right was so crucial. Eventually I found Rachel Suzanne who is incredible, I love her work.
Last year I was sent the first ever copy – the only copy that was in existence at the time. My daughter took it into school for Show and Tell. That was amazing, she was so excited to take it in. When I went to pick her up I was hounding her immediately: “What did your teachers think? What did your friends make of it?”
Are you planning any more books?
Yes! I’d like to write a series of children’s books, it won’t just be these characters, it’ll be lots of different characters from lots of different backgrounds. I’m actually playing around with some ideas for book number two at the moment… I want it to be a magical story with a strong message.
Tell me about how do you manage your work/life balance.
Well… I just wing it! I don’t have it sussed by any means. My whole thing is that I just take it week by week and month by month. Obviously I know what I’m doing work-wise, that’s all quite fixed. I think it’s just about setting those boundaries. I’m lucky because I work with a lot of mothers and fathers. They get it. It’s never a big deal for us to cancel work things for family reasons. You know, I could be asked to host the best show on telly but if my daughter’s got a play at school, I’m going to be at that play.
It’s all about not putting too much pressure on yourself, too. Just going with it. I’m lucky that I have such a good support network. Marvin works evenings which is convenient! He doesn’t leave home till the evening. We can have weeks when I’m really busy in the day so he’s doing school runs. There are some weeks when the kids have got us both to themselves for a couple of months. So although there is time when we’re really busy, we make up for it with quiet spells.
Do you have any advice for mamas?
Trust your instincts; get to know your own baby. I think when you have your first baby there’s this mad pressure to get everything right. By the time you have your second you think, ‘I can do this now!’ I’ve been so much more chilled with my second. It’s encouraging to think you’ve got one who’s fit and well and alive. I’m so relaxed now, my youngest is sat her at the minute literally covered in camomile lotion with a waffle in her mouth.
The first time round it’s easy to listen to other people’s input too much. Going with the flow becomes easier and easier, it’s about learning your own baby. What someone else does with their baby, how they get them to sleep or eat, it’s not necessarily going to work for you. Accept that babies are individuals. Just like you and I might like different things, babies are the same. Realise that you’re fine doing it your way.
Finally, what are your favourite children’s books?
Anything by Roald Dahl.
The Mega Magic Hair Swap by Rochelle Humes and illustrated by Rachel Suzanne is out now, priced £6.99 studiopressbooks.co.uk